March 10, 2022

It’s been a while since I watched the Dr. Henry update, but I did today, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s going to be the last one… at least as far as scheduled ones are concerned. Two years ago, and for many subsequent months, you’d have found me glued to the screen on a daily basis, watching intently and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. That was my daily question, and the answer always was… “We’ll see.”

Today’s final press conference, close to two years to the day of the first one, came with some announcements that were expected… and will make some people very happy, and others not so much…

One big question people have been wondering about is when do we see the end of vaccine passports, and the answer is – assuming things remain on the path they’re on – April 8th. The provincial requirement for vaccine passports goes away April 8th and, in a perfect world (don’t we wish), stays away forever. We’ll see.

The other biggie is, of course, mask mandates: Also gone, as of midnight tonight… and notwithstanding some minor exceptions (medical settings), places like restaurants and concerts and hockey games will no longer require them. But let’s clarify that… restaurants will no longer be required to require them. I am guessing there will be some places who will be hesitant to just say it’s open season, and that’s likely to cause some problems. Some people will be offended that the person next to them is voluntarily wearing a mask. For others, it’ll be the exact opposite. Some restaurants, for their own reasons, may choose to stick with it… not for the scientific, but for the psychological reasons. We’ll see.

There is a huge, and I do mean… huge… difference between the science and the psychology of where we are today. I realized that recently when walking into my house and subconsciously reaching for my mask. Part of my brain is now on that autopilot; going from outdoors to indoors? Put on a mask.

That sort of autopilot has saved my life, literally… on a few occasions walking the streets of London. Here’s some advice, especially if you’ve never been there: When you’re crossing the street, look both ways. It’s that simple. Don’t try to think about traffic and where it’s coming from and where it’s going and who’s turning to and from where… just look both ways. I once came within inches of getting hit by a bus because I was quickly going to cross the street and there was nothing off to the left. Of course there wasn’t, because that’s not how it works over there.

So how’s it going to work over here? A mask or no mask is unlikely to be a matter of life and death, but the psychology of un-training our brains may take a while. I have a tremendous amount of empathy for people who aren’t automatically young and healthy and fearless. I feel for teachers who are worried about the fact that all students K-12 will no longer require masks after Spring Break.

I feel for them because the fear that’s been around for two years doesn’t go away so easily. Obviously, at some point, the mask mandate has to go away, and it’s the science that’s driving that decision today. But no matter when that was going to be, it was going to result in a lot of issues… and here we are. For a long time, we’ve been told we’re wearing masks for the benefit of others… but long after Covid is gone, there will be people with masks… and in that case, it’s entirely for themselves and their mental well-being. Whether it’s tomorrow or in 6 months or in 2 years, you will see people with masks. To quote our fearless Dr. Henry: “Be kind, be calm.” Perhaps the “Be safe” part of it is not so relevant anymore, at least not for you. But it is, and will remain so, for others.

Speaking of what’s relevant and not… I’ve been wondering for a while how long I’ll be updating these numbers and charts. “Until they’re no longer relevant” is my inward-facing answer to that. Does any of this mean anything anymore?

For a long time, case counts meant everything. Cases turned into hospitalizations and ICUs and deaths, etc. Well… it’s been a while since the daily case numbers have meant much. Testing protocols have changed… and while, for a long time, we knew that reported cases were significantly undercounting reality, we never knew by how much. That’s never been more true, to the extent that the published numbers no longer mean much at all… so much so that many jurisdictions are no longer publishing them on a daily basis, if at all. You’ll see a lot of italics in today’s chart… those are interpolated numbers. If it was 170 last week and it’s 100 today, you’ll see it stepping down by very pretty and consistent and italicized “10” on a daily basis. Does that really mean anything at all? Honestly, not much. But it’s better than blanks and then a big jump. And, to be fair, it’s a relatively fair view of a trend… though, again, the trend isn’t actually as important as simply: Where are we today?

So… where, in fact, are we today…

Today, B.C. has around 400 Covid hospital cases. That number was close to 1,000 a month ago. Also today, B.C. has 58 Covid ICU cases. A month ago, it was close to 150. To the extent this has always greatly been about managing the pressures on the health-care system, we’re nowhere near frightening levels, and continue to head in the right direction.

And, on that note, what do these numbers actually mean? Everyone admitted to the hospital these days gets a Covid test. If you go to the E.R. with a broken arm and test positive, you’re on that list. If you have a heart attack and wind up in the ICU, and happen to have tested positive, you’re on that list too. And if you die with Covid, notwithstanding it may have had nothing to do with it, you’ll count there too.

So… look at all the pretty charts, because they won’t be around much longer. I have to be honest and say that I don’t think they’re conveying too much useful information anymore. You can see the hospitalization and ICU and death trends pretty clearly; they’re what you’d expect… and unless there’s some unheard of Omegaplex variant coming down the line, all of those charts should be going downhill (in the good way) forever. Every single graph shows where we are, and every single graph is in a much better place than it was a month ago… by far.

I suppose this is what the end-game of the pandemic is supposed to look like; it’s what it was going to look like all along… a fuzzy finish line at best. Initially, like two years ago, I somehow imagined a V-E day-type ending to all of this… where the announcement is made, the case-counts are near zero, the death counts have been zero ten days in a row and we’re all out dancing in the streets downtown throwing our masks in the air and hugging strangers. Nothing remotely close like that will happen, and the only people jamming downtown are the insane trucker anti-mask anti-vax “freedom” brigade who are on their way to Victoria to protest… to protest what? Nothing left to protest, but that won’t stop them, so we’ll see.

In fact, that’s a good motto going forward… it answers a lot of the rhetorical questions: Do you feel comfortable in a crowded place? We’ll see. Where nobody has a mask? We’ll see. And nobody had to show a vaccine passport? Honestly, speaking for myself, I don’t know.

We’ll see.

February 9, 2022

It wasn’t so long ago that marijuana was illegal. Back then, smoking up in public could get you arrested. Not to mention possession, distribution, operating a little grow-op, and so on. There was an exception to all of that, though… and it occurred exactly once a year, on April 20th. On that day, 4/20, at precisely 4:20pm, a lot of people (far more than 420) would congregate on the lawn (yes, back when it was, appropriately, grass) of the Vancouver Art Gallery… and get high together.

Not everyone there partook; many were there just to be part of it because they agreed with the message, and/or had some role to play. There were cops, reporters, curious bystanders, merchants peddling their associated wares, confused tourists, and so on. The whole thing seems to have lost its edge once pot became legal, but in its day, there was plenty to celebrate for those who cared.

One thing that never happened was the whole thing getting out of hand, or hijacked for an ulterior motive. Maybe an arrest or two for some drunk idiot, but, for the most part, what else can you expect from a large group of stoners. It’s all mellow; it’s all good man. One big, eclectic group of people, all relatively on the same page. Indeed, you can tell a lot about a group of people by looking at not just them, but those who associate with them.

Which brings us to the events of recent days… events we’re not done with quite yet.

I find it sad – tragically sad – that the incredibly divisive left/right black/white right/wrong paradigm that’s been ripping apart the core of the U.S. since 2016 has managed to jump the 49th.

I’m saddened to see so many people whose opinions have made sense to me for two years have a strange course-correction when it comes to the truckers and protests… falling into that sinkhole where you stuck a toe in, then you went a bit deeper, and now it’s too late to remove yourself… but you’d rather get totally soaked and maybe even drown before you might admit you’re wrong.

So… let’s rewind a bit: A lot of us, and by a lot of us I mean everyone – is sick and tired of this pandemic. We all just want to go back to normal. Let’s not get into why we’re not there yet; let’s just agree we all want that to happen.

So… you hear there’s going to be a protest against what you imagine is the bad guy; sure. Go protest. It’s your privilege to do so. Then, when you get there, you realize perhaps there’s more going on here than you imagined.

Pause button for moment with respect to the makeup of that crowd; many of them are imported and jumping on the bandwagon. There’s no version of “Canada versus the virus” that needs to involve Confederate flags and Nazi symbolism, and yeah, I know also… those people don’t speak for you. I get that too… but here’s a concept for you: If you’re sitting at a table with 9 other people, and then a Nazi sits down… watch to see who gets up. Because if nobody does, now you’re sitting at a table with 11 Nazis. Yeah, yeah, I get it… they don’t speak for you. But here’s a concept for you; by not getting up from the table, you’re speaking for *them*. There was actively one; now there is passively many more.

Why exactly are a bunch of (mostly) unwanted people showing up to what ostensibly should be a peaceful Canadian rally? You’re just there to simply (and loudly) state you’re tired of mandates. So, what’s the big deal?

Let’s answer that question a little differently, for those saying that bandwagon-jumpers don’t count.

Let’s set aside for a moment the people desecrating the tomb of the unknown soldier… what’s the big deal… it’s just a couple of idiots. They don’t speak for us.

Let’s set aside the people draping crap on top of a statue of the greatest Canadian of them all, Terry Fox… what’s the big deal? And anyway, Terry Fox himself would probably be out here dancing with us, as Canadian as he was. Actually, he wouldn’t, because he lived the heroic final days of his life raising money for science – as we all know, scientific research to cure cancer. He embraced medical science till the day he died, and countless lives have been saved with research directly funded by his legacy. But let’s set that aside for a moment.

Let’s set aside the violence, the homophobic signs, and the blocked traffic, the relentless noise. Let’s set aside the intimidation of journalists, hotel managers, medical workers and baristas. Let’s set aside the people stealing from soup kitchens. Let’s set aside the guys who tried to set an apartment building on fire and blocked the exits.

Jeez… we’re excusing an awful lot of deplorable behaviour, eh. Oh well… all in the name of freedom.

Let’s get back to 4/20, and here’s a great question: Do you know what some other people celebrate on 4/20? It’s not just “get high” day… it also happens to be Hitler’s birthday. Countless white supremacist facist assholes love that day. And I’ve always wondered why they never take the opportunity to march to the “lawn” of the Art Gallery and let their presence be known. There’s a captive crowd there, partying it up… they’d fit right in and yell and scream and party alongside everyone else.

Except, of course, they wouldn’t. As stoned as all of those people may be, they’re West-coast easy-going love-your-neighbour type people who are pretty clear what they believe in, and they wouldn’t put up with it. As stoned as they are, they’d beat the ever-living shit out of those skinheads. The stoners would literally stone them.

And all of this is why I’m more than a little disturbed by what’s going on.

All of you who support these rallies… here’s a question for you: Once all the mandates are lifted and whatever else they purport to be protesting is no longer a fight, then what? What will you say to the ongoing disruption of life caused by a fringe who’s here with their own agenda, one that has absolutely nothing to do with yours?

The problem is that they’re using your well-intentioned cry for normality (and please, do not call it freedom; let’s not go there) – and using it to show themselves and each other and the alt-whatever fringe of society that hey, they all agree with us. They speak for us too. We’re welcome here.

They’re not welcome here; certainly not by me, and, I should hope, not by you either. There’s a very big difference between “We’re tired of the pandemic” and what we’ve seen recently… a shitstorm that’s not going to be going away any time soon.

It’s time to take a big step back and understand what’s actually going on here… and not allow ourselves to get dragged into some post-pandemic/pre-apocalpyptic nightmare of divisiveness that we seem to be imposing on each other… and which has absolutely nothing to do with our actual shared values that make up Canada – the actual and real True North Strong and Free.

December 23, 2021

There are some words you never hear. We’re all familiar with “overwhelmed” and “underwhelmed”, but what about just whelmed? What does it even mean?

The words originate from the marine world and have been around for centuries, and these days, whelmed means where the water is coming right up to the sides of the boat, and some of it is splashing onto the deck… but it’s no big deal. Overwhelmed is where the water is pouring in from all sides, and things are heading in a catastrophic direction, ie. sinking or capsizing. And underwhelmed, of course, means nothing too exciting is going on.

We hear a lot about our medical system being at risk of being overwhelmed, but it’s not just hospital beds at risk. Long before a Covid case gets to hospital, there’s a lot that needs to happen… and every step of the way is potentially at risk of becoming a choke point. And once you have a choke point, the effects spill over to other areas.

What happens when the choke point is right at the beginning of the sequence? What if the boat is overwhelmed before it even leaves the harbour?

Two weeks ago, I drove by the Covid testing centre that’s been set up in the parking lot of St. Vincent’s Hospital. You head down 33rd, westbound, and turn right, into the lot. There were three cars waiting in line… probably a 5-minute wait. When I went to get my test a week ago, the lineup went all the way up to Cambie and then occupied the right-most southbound lane for about a block-and-a-half down. I joined the line at around Cambie and 31st, and from there it took close to 90 minutes to get tested.

I happened to drive by there today, and the lineup not only spilled onto Cambie; it now took up the two right lanes. And it went all the way down, past 26th Ave, almost to the intersection of King Ed. Two solid lanes for eight blocks, and that’s before the right turn onto 33rd for the final little bit.

My understanding is that people were being told it’s a close-to 6 hour wait.

So, here is exhibit A of an overwhelmed system. Funny how, two weeks ago, driving by there, I thought… huh, so much infrastructure for so little. A couple of piddly little cars waiting…and, for that… all these cops and nurses and tents and generators and infrastructure. It’s way too much. Ha Ha. And now, there’s only one word that applies. Overwhelmed. And here’s a spillover effect that has nothing to do with Covid: Cambie street is a designated emergency corridor. Indeed, if you’re downtown and need to get to… City Hall? VGH? The airport? It’s that straight line which, ostensibly, always has an open lane… just in case. But not today; two-thirds of the southbound lanes are a 6-hour line-up, and the other single lane is occupied by traffic which, of course, needing 300% of the allocated space, was backed up all the way to the Cambie Bridge. This would be a really bad time for an earthquake.

So… all these people being tested. Let’s start by being very clear that the startling increase in cases in no way reflects the actual reality. There are far, far more new cases today than the already eyebrow-raising 2,000+ would imply. How many people got to the line-up and said to hell with it? And at how many different testing sites? More than stuck around would be my guess. Their thinking makes some sense. Why wait it out? Go home, isolate, etc… we all know what we’re supposed to do. If it gets serious (and, overwhelmingly, if you’re double-vaxxed, it won’t), just go home and ride it out like any illness you’ve ever had. Why stress the overwhelmed infrastructure – and yes, that’s exactly what it is. A six-hour wait to get tested is nobody’s idea of whelmed.

And all of that leads into the topic-du-jour, which is an awful lot of pissed-off people. We heard a lot of “Hopefully by Christmas” ideas until recently. Until it all went to hell. The new restrictions have just added to the confusion and the anger. People have had enough, and it’s psychologically very difficult to keep adjusting to goalposts which seem to move haphazardly, and have been doing so for two years. Gyms are ok, gyms are not ok, family gatherings are not ok, restaurants yes, sort of…, clubs no, etc etc. Who makes these rules? Why are they messing with us?

The science behind these restrictions, as random as it might seem, is entirely based on likelihood of transmission. Closed indoor spaces with bad ventilation, ie gyms, are, with a bug as contagious as Omicron, a bad place to be. Big parties in enclosed restaurant party rooms? If there is one person in that room who has Omicron, after 3 hours of jovial partying, everyone will have come into contact with it. And this time, vaxxed or not, you’re at a much higher risk.

The number of people saying “So what. Enough. Who cares.” is higher than it’s ever been, and why wouldn’t it be. People who’ve been planning for months (if not years). People who’ve heard this version isn’t so serious. People whose airline tickets and hotels have crossed beyond the refundable window, and their measurement of risk/reward makes sense to them.

There are no simple answers. Indeed, there are many scenarios imaginable that technically violate the orders… yet people are comfortably wrapping their heads around ways to justify their decisions.

There are still too many variables to figure out what’s ok and what isn’t. It’ll all shake out in hindsight, but for now, everything in place is there to prevent one thing: overwhelming the medical system. But hey, guess what… the overwhelming is already happening.

The question to which we’d all love an answer is just how, where and what is being overwhelmed. What’s the effect of a virus that’s not as serious but a lot easier to catch? The math of “A third as serious but 10x easier to catch” nets out to more hospitalizations. Enough to break the system?

Around here – in fact, in all of Canada, the staggering growth in cases in not translating to hospitalizations except in Quebec, where they’re seeing a bit of a spike… but still, not even close to proportional to their new cases.

There’s no good summary to any of this; this variant hit at the worst possible time. Here’s another word where perhaps it’s fair to use the less-common form. Whereas in the past, everything we experienced was unprecedented, this is all feeling somewhat precedented at the moment. Hopefully not for long. I’d like to feel gruntled again.

In the meantime… for those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas… and may this be the last of the “memorable” ones, at least in this context.

October 13, 2021

The Great Divide; it keeps getting wider… and every day is happy to provide examples to suit whatever argument you wish to agree with. If we were ever all together in the same boat, drifting in the same direction… well, that’s over. The river forked, and some went this way and others went that way. Depends who you ask. And yes, geologists, sit down… I know, rivers don’t do that… but you know what I’m trying to say… just trying to symbolize the ever-increasing gap in people’s opinions.

Like… It’s almost over! The U.S. border will be open soon! The Canucks are playing their first regular season game in over 18 months in front of a sell-out crowd!

Or… todays Covid deaths… 38 in Alberta and 11 in Saskatchewan… are more than we’ve seen since January. There are so many critically-ill patients in Saskatchewan that they’ll be sending them to Ontario hospitals. Yeah, here we go again.

OK, so what’s the deal? Where the hell exactly are we? Is it heading towards being over? Is it heading for a fifth wave? Will it ever end? We had such High Hopes.

Pink Floyd has a song called High Hopes… from their 1994 album “The Division Bell.”
The song contains lyrics like “The grass was greener” and “The light was brighter” and “The taste was sweeter”. How things were. And where we hope we’re once again headed… soon.

An interesting thing about that song… the eponymous (“relating to the person or thing for which something is named”) Division Bell itself plays a prominent role. You can hear it on every 4th beat of most of the song. One-two-three-DING one-two-three-DING… and I don’t mean some little “next, please” chime or a little sleigh bell… I mean an actual gigantic bell, the sort you see in a belltower of a mediaeval church. The song starts with lots of bells, but then just settles on this one… keeping that 4th beat. Then comes the wall of sound… the drums, the bass, the guitars, the keyboards, David Gilmour’s voice… but, by the end of the song, all of that has faded away and we’re left with nothing but… yes, you guessed it. When I purchased tickets for that concert, I was hoping they’d have an actual bell on stage.

Sidenote… I stood in line all night for tickets to that concert… and bought the maximum 6 tickets when it was finally my turn. I think 4 of the 5 friends who came to that show with me back in 1994 might be reading this.

Anyway, I was not disappointed. Prominently occupying the back of center-stage was a gigantic bell, and it well-served its purpose for the final song of the night; there was a solitary percussionist whose only job was to hammer it every 4 beats.

The persistence of it… they symbolism isn’t difficult to grasp. It’s not subtle… it hits you like… well, like being clanged by a bell-hammer every four beats: It doesn’t matter what’s happening now; it’s temporary. It’ll fade. But what came before and what’ll come again; that’s permanence. You can almost hear the bell ringing from a thousand years ago and ringing a thousand years into the future. But here we are for the moment and, as per above, where are we?

Before we answer that, it’s worth answering “Where should we be?” All things being equal, this pandemic should be over.

Let’s remind ourselves about R-naught (“Rø”)… a number which, at the start of this pandemic meant everything. Rø measures the “spreadability” of a disease by calculating how many people, on average, an infected person is themselves infecting. An Rø of less than one means the disease is on its way out. An Rø of greater than one means it’ll continue spreading.

The original C19 had an Rø of between 1.4 and 3.9. The Alpha variant doubled that. And then the Delta variant came along and doubled it again, to somewhere between 5 and 9. For comparison, a seasonal flu has an Rø of 0.9 to 2.1. Measles has an Rø of 12 to 18. We are closer to measles territory than a conventional flu.

If we had vaccines and treatments and no variants, this might all be over. There is a direct correlation with respect to herd immunity and Rø… and it’s exactly what you’d expect; the more infectious the disease, the more people need to be immune to it to prevent it from spreading. The originally-thought herd immunity level for beating this thing was around 70%, and with an Rø of 3, that’s about right. But now, unfortunately, it’s far from being the case. With the Delta variant, we need to be approaching 90%.

Originally, good hand washing and masks and social distancing and restrictions were thought to be the key… and they were. Without vaccines, all of those things help tremendously in stopping the spread, effectively bashing down the Rø because they prevent the virus from spreading unchecked. The world provided some examples as to what happens when you let that native Rø run its course, and it wasn’t pretty.

So… instead of a quick end, what we got is a far more contagious variant… and far more vaccine hesitancy/denial/insanity than anyone could’ve predicted. Those two things very-effectively have served to extend this… and, in essence, convert it from a pandemic to what’ll ultimately be an endemic disease that’ll be with us forever.

OR…

Well, here’s a funny thing. Much like a broken clock is right twice a day, when the fanatical anti-vaxxers scream that the scientists don’t understand this thing at all, there’s one particular aspect where they’re right… and it has to do with the mysterious 2-month cycle of Covid-19. One example of nailing the broken clock is this:

It seems, with some regularity, that when there’s a surge in cases, they seem to plateau after about two months and then drop off. Indeed, look at the numbers and pretty pictures and they all tell the same story. There’s a definite plateau off of the two-month surge, and in the U.S., who started down the path before us, a notable decline in new cases… 35% since September 1st. Indeed, worldwide, cases have dropped 30% since late August and when cases drop, so do hospitalizations and ICU admissions and deaths. The surge in ICU cases and deaths in Alberta and Saskatchewan today are due to the new case surges of two weeks (and longer) ago… but today’s new-case numbers are all, at worst flat, and, at best, a lot lower (more than 50%) from the recent past. Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: in a month, things in those two provinces (and Canada in general) will be looking a lot better.

Why is this happening? Nobody is too sure, because all of the variables have been written out of the equation. It’s warm, it’s cold, masks on, masks off, social distancing, easing of restrictions, vaccines. Whereas all of those things are treated very differently around the world, there’s a very evident pattern: Generally speaking, cases rose from February to late April, fell until late June, rose to highs in late August and have been falling ever since. In Canada, we were a little late to the party, so add a month to all of that. But the pattern is there. And so, Canada numbers will continue to go down, the border will open and Canucks fans will flood to Seattle for games and we will all be back to normal.

No, not quite… but given vaccinations and the pattern above, there’s reason to be optimistic. Those two things imply that the worst is over. And yes, it could change again. Pick an as-of-yet unused Greek letter, attach “variant” to it, and a frightening Rø, and you can throw the optimism out the window. There’s the other broken clock. We simply don’t know what we don’t know… and that’s why the bell keeps ringing, and will do so till the end of time.

Like the song ends, and like we might all be feeling, drifting with the current, destination time and place unknown…

With friends surrounded
The dawn mist glowing
The water flowing
The endless river
Forever and ever

Ding… ding… ding…

October 13, 2021

December 12, 2020

Beautiful day plus no local numbers equals just a brief update… but speaking of local numbers, they were way up at the dog beach we always go to.

If you don’t have a dog, it’s possible you don’t even know there’s a gem of a beach near the airport. Just north of the airport but south of the river, you’ll find McDonald Beach… and, on a day like this, it’s spectacular… a view that’s obviously shared by many others, given the crowd size… both people and dogs. If you want to see lots of dogs having the time of their lives, running up and down the paths, the more than 1km of beach, the water (which is of course fresh, not salty… and rapidly running, so clean)… head on down.

And, might I add… if you don’t like dogs, don’t go there. Do not go there for a quiet picnic and expect to not get overrun by dogs. If you find yourself shooing dogs away, you’re probably in the wrong place. Also, if you take your dog to a beach or park or wherever, and throw him the ball, don’t be offended if 10 other dogs go chasing it… and telling other dogs, “Hey, put that down, it’s not yours!” is unlikely to help.

Notwithstanding those two oddities, it was a wonderful day. The place is full of friendly people and friendly dogs. And, fresh air and sunshine, two commodities that scarcely make an appearance together this time of year and should be taken advantage of… especially the vitamin D aspect. Enjoy it while you can. And ugh, just had a look at the weather for tomorrow and rest of the week. Quick… there’s still a few minutes of sunshine left… in 2020.

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December 7, 2020

Numbers day here in B.C., which brings everything up to date… and not surprisingly, there are no big surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the weekend numbers added up to… 2020.

Everything is proceeding with clockwork consistency… which means, around here, a continual case growth of 1.9% — a rate at which cases would double in about 37 days, which would be January 13th… which coincidentally is about two weeks after New Year’s, and three weeks after Christmas. Also not surprising is that Dr. Henry extended all present orders until January 8th… because, the fact is, they’re helping.

The collision course of this latest effort – these recent orders, which are making a difference — will run straight into the holiday season, and your guess is as good as mine as to what will happen. As we’ve learned, this virus doesn’t usually transmit from 10 people giving it to 10 others. It’s more like one person giving it to 20. That’s why the usual family holiday gatherings can be so risky. One contagious person ends up being patient zero of their own, exponential outbreak.

The vaccine news is good, but requires a reality check. The good news is that the first 250,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine will be arriving in Canada next week. Since it’s a two-shot vaccine, that’ll be good for 125,000 people. The vaccine will be distributed on a pro-rata basis, which should mean B.C. will get around 34,000 doses… good enough for 17,000 people. Obviously, that’s not enough to change anything; it’ll be months before enough people have had it where it could make a tangible difference.

In fact, if you were to get the vaccine tomorrow, what would change in your life? If you’re following the orders, your chances of getting the virus were slim, and now they would go down to pretty-much nil. But gatherings are still banned, things are still closed/postponed/cancelled, and you would still be wearing a mask.

We’re nearing the end, but we’re still at the beginning of the end. At least it’s in sight; remember, not so long ago, the hardest part of this was not knowing how long it could possibly go on… I likened it to preferring a prison sentence of known length; lock me up for 5 years, with a definite date when I get to walk free. I’d prefer that to being locked up, and having someone every day tell me either it’s time to go home… or not. There’s great comfort in certainty, and with certainty I can tell you – as fuzzy as it is presently – that’s a finish line on the horizon.

Also, with respect to the finish line of former Canucks anthem singer Mark Donnelly’s career… shoutout to Mark Donnelly, the sportswriter from Northern England who covers Sunderland AFC and who knew little about hockey or Vancouver… until his phone blew up over the weekend, over which he received over 1,000 messages on Twitter, both public and private, both praising him and insulting him. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know our anthem and can’t sing (or skate), so he won’t be filling-in any time soon… but he does wear a mask, and advocates for their use. Cheers, mate.

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November 16, 2020

Terrific news today regarding Moderna’s vaccine trial… an unheard-of efficacy rate of 94.5%. In the study, 30,000 volunteers received a vaccination. Half of them got the real thing, half of them got salt water. Out of all those volunteers, 95 of them got infected with C19. Of those 95, 90 had gotten the placebo, and 5 had gotten the vaccine. Of those 5 who’d gotten the vaccine, none had a serious case of C19. Out of the other 90 cases, 11 of them were serious, a number that lines up with what’s been seen with some consistency out in the wild. In summary, as expected with any vaccine… it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but it dramatically cuts down your chances. And, if you do get sick, it’s likelier to be a milder course of illness. And, added bonus, this Moderna vaccine doesn’t need extreme cold to be transported or stored. It lives at the same temperature (conventional refrigeration) as many other common vaccines.

It’s great news if it holds up, like nobody in that study suddenly gets super-sick and has serious side-effects or anything like that. On that assumption, Moderna is already manufacturing for production, and some of the public (those at highest risk) might be getting the jab by late December. Perhaps by spring, we’ll be seeing a much larger general rollout. If that’s the case, there will be one hell of a lot of incredible summer parties. I’ll be sure to host a few. You’re all invited. Well… most of you.

However… we’re not there yet… and, as every day goes by, we seem to be drifting further and further from it. We will ultimately hit that finish line, but the idea is that most of us get there, and in good health.

I’ve added a new row of graphs… a graphic representation of deaths, just below the corresponding case-counts, just to keep a little reality in the picture… because there is a double-edge to the sword that will ultimately slay this virus, and that is… that this vaccine’s existence, whether today or in the future, gives many people the idea that this is all almost over and we can just gently glide to the end, and it’s party time now.

This is exactly not the time to let our collective guard down. The virus is still out there, the weather is getting colder and we’re all going to be indoors a lot more. The steepness of case counts and death counts – see attached. The gently rising curve of death hasn’t hit the levels we saw back in April, but it’s not hard to see the trend. We saw how quickly it blew up last time; not taking the proper measures could lead to this getting far worse. It’s up to us to not let that happen.

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November 15, 2020

On the evening of March 21st, 2006, the B.C. Ferry Queen of the North departed from Prince Rupert, headed for Port Hardy. There is a tremendous amount of controversy as to what happened that night… books have been written, court cases have been tried, people have been fired, and… policies have been changed.

That night, thanks to the gross negligence of the two people on the bridge of the vessel – the ship’s fourth officer and the Quartermaster (who may have been fighting, or may have been having sex – either way, completely distracted), the ship missed the timing of an important maneuver, hit an underwater ridge of rocks that tore open the hull, and sank. Were it not for the heroic efforts of the Gitka’a’ata people in Hartley Bay, things would’ve been far worse. They took to the water in every boat they had, and rescued everyone they could. Unfortunately, 2 out of the 101 people on board were trapped, and are presumed to have gone down with the ship; their bodies have never been found.

One outcome of this tragedy was the policy change that made it mandatory for all ferry passengers to leave their vehicles during travel, lest the ship should sink and you be trapped.

The unlikeliness of that happening is difficult to overstate. BC Ferries provided more than 160,000 trips last year, moving close to 22 million passengers. Multiply that by 10 or 20 or 50 years, it doesn’t really matter… all you’re doing is changing your chances of dying on a ferry from one in a million to one in a billion or trillion or zillion. Whatever.

This policy does not sit well with many people, and I’m one of them. If I want to sit in the comfort of my car for the journey… maybe I have a crying baby or two, finally asleep in their car seats. Maybe I have a dog who’s cozy in his spot. Maybe I just want to listen to my music, read my book, play on my phone… in peace, in my environment. Maybe I have a broken leg and don’t want to be hobbling all over the place. Over the decades, I’ve had many reasons. More recently, one of those reasons was, of course, this pandemic… and B.C. Ferries, initially, agreed. In fact, they flipped the rule 180 early in this pandemic. Stay in your car. Don’t you DARE come upstairs, unless it’s a dire emergency. Sounds good.

Now, they’ve flipped it back again, at perhaps the worst possible time… and they’re being surprisingly adamant – arguably militant – about it. I really don’t get it. Persistent vigilance of the vehicle decks. Threats of fines or bans.

Since everyone *has* to get out now, it’s very crowded upstairs. The elevators are slow. The staircases are cramped. The cafeteria is full of people eating. The seating area is full of mask-deniers making selfie-videos of themselves showing how awesome they are, flaunting their freedom and laughing at all the people around them who are wearing masks and trying to socially-distance in an impossible environment.

A few things need to change here in B.C.

  1. This ferry policy has to go. In the midst of this pandemic, I don’t think I need to spell it out. If someone from B.C. Ferries can explain to me how staying in my car is more dangerous or puts me more at risk than the potential C19 exposure, I’d like to hear the argument. And I’m speaking for the benefit of others as well. What if I’m contagious and don’t even know it? You’re making me put everyone else at higher risk.
  2. B.C. is the only province not publishing anything C19-related over the weekend. No press release, no numbers, no update, no nothing. Everywhere else, whether they have over 120,000 cases (Quebec) or less than 20 (Nunavut), they’re keeping the information flowing continually, seven days a week.
  3. Mask policy – it’s high time they are made mandatory everywhere here in B.C., period. “Strongly urged” is no longer sufficient. Enough of the “we’re polite and we’ll do the right thing” mantra, and enough of the “people so inclined will ignore the rules anyway”. Just because the province doesn’t feel it can enforce it, it doesn’t mean you and I can’t. I’d welcome the opportunity to tell some mask-denier who taunts me with “Why should I?” with some sort of clout. “Because it’s the law”. “Because it’s an order”. Too much wishy-washy going on here, and the stakes are too high. It’s pretty clear what we’re heading towards, so let’s get ahead of it a bit. If the time for a mandatory mask enforcement is coming anyway (and it certainly is, or, at least, certainly should be), let’s just get on with it now.

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November 13, 2020

Out of the top 20 worst countries to be in, with respect to this virus, there is only one that can claim less than 100 deaths per one million of population. For comparison, as per the attached data, U.S. has 750 and Canada has 283.

But India, a country of 1.4 billion people and widespread poverty and overcrowding and nowhere near enough infrastructure to handle the medical catastrophe this could be if it got out of control — they’re doing surprisingly well. Their number is 93.

They are second in the world for number of total cases; only the U.S., a country with a quarter the population of India, has more. But while 250,000 (and counting) people have died in the U.S., that number is only 130,000 in India. Even Brazil, a country with less than one seventh of India’s population (and a leader as despicable as Trump), has more. So… what’s going on?

Perhaps it’s better testing? But it’s not. The U.S. has tested about 500,000 per million. India has tested 89,000 per million. And through that testing, the U.S. has learned they have 33,000 cases per million, as opposed to India’s 6,300. There are presently almost 4 million active cases in the U.S. There are less than half a million in India.

No… the answer is actually pretty simple. Following the rules…. and masks. There have of course been lockdowns and a level of somewhat sophisticated and targeted Unlocks in different regions… but what has made a big difference is national buy-in with respect to masks, where 90% of the population believes they should be mandatory. There is a fine for not wearing a mask, around $20, but 40% of people think that fine should be increased.

For a while, a couple of months ago, it looked like India might spiral out of control. Their graphs looked a lot like what you see here… except they managed to get it under control… and it starts with people doing their part.

On a related note… Diwali this year begins tomorrow.

Diwali is the 5-day Indian festival of lights. I’m not familiar with the intricacies and symbolism, but the celebration part of it… I think if you change Diwali to Chanukah and the 5 to an 8… it’s pretty close. The whole family gets together, you eat great food, you hang out. Good times. Chanukah is in less than a month. A few weeks after that, Christmas. Right after that, Kwanza. If none of that applies to you, there’s always Festivus.

Dr. Henry reminds me a bit of British policemen, before they were allowed to carry guns. “Stop! Or I will say ‘Stop!’ again!”. Well, there’s only so much she can do. Especially now, as numbers are rising alarmingly… either you get it or you don’t. Two weeks ago was Halloween. Here we are. Where will we be in two weeks? This isn’t rocket science. Cause and effect are taught in grade school.

Whatever you’re celebrating… you know what’s ok and what’s not. For your benefit, for your family’s benefit, for everyone’s benefit… be responsible.

COVID-19 Daily Report Graph for November 13, 2020

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November 11, 2020

On the 11th day… of my chronicling this pandemic… March 27th, 2020, I wrote this:

“…The thing to do is what you’re doing. Stay home. What else are you going to do, anyway… it’s rain for the next several days. Yay Vancouver weather!! That’s it. It’s not too much to ask. You’re not being called to charge Vimy Ridge. You’re not being called to storm the beach at Normandy. You’re being called to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. I have all the faith in the world you’re up to the task.”

The 11th day thing is a nice coincidence, today being the 11th day of the 11th month… and several hours ago, it was the 11th hour that marked the end of The Great War, in 1918. The War To End All Wars.

World War I didn’t end anything, for too long… because, at every level, history has a way of repeating itself. World War I ended exactly 102 years ago. March 27th was only 229 days ago. Wars keep going on; there are more than 40 active conflicts in the world today. And the advice/strong suggestion/orders from late March; we’re back to that as well. Things may have changed in the meantime, but we’re right back to it. Whether it’s 102 years or just several months; round and round we go.

Those 40 conflicts will all eventually end, or morph into something else. The same can be said for this pandemic. And, interestingly, it was that great pandemic of 1918 that helped end WWI.

Those heroes – the ones who actually did charge Vimy Ridge and storm the beaches at Normandy – they did it so that we, today, could enjoy the sort of freedom… that ironically allows us to be idiots who don’t wear masks and social distance. As we well-know, there are places around the world that aren’t so free, where the rules aren’t just suggestions; they are the law, and not following the law has serious repercussions. Dr. Henry has gone on the record saying there’s not much point mandating certain things, because people who are inclined to break the rules will do so anyway. This isn’t North Korea or China. You and your family will not be arrested, exiled or executed for walking into Costco without a mask.

But I don’t want to give too much attention to today’s Covidiots.

Today, let’s focus on remembering the real heroes of the past. Your Facebook feed is probably as full as mine of posts from friends whose fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, uncles, etc… gave their lives for what we, today, pretty-much take for granted. Look at their pictures. Read their stories. They are the ones upon whose shoulders we enjoy our freedom.

It’s important to remember that, often… not just once a year. Lest we forget.

COVID-19 Daily Report Graph for November 11, 2020

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